In this podcast, Paul Kelley explains how Ford Motor Company employees were exposed to asbestos at the plant. Then, he outlines what you should do if you or a loved one contracted mesothelioma, lung cancer, or asbestosis due to exposure.
John Maher: Hi, I am John Maher. I’m here today with Paul Kelley. Paul is a partner with the Kentucky personal injury law firm, Satterley and Kelley, which has over 30 years of collective experience in handling cases involving mesothelioma and asbestos exposure. Today we’re talking about mesothelioma cases at Ford Motor Company in Louisville, Kentucky. Welcome, Paul.
Paul Kelley: Hey, John. How are you doing today?
John: Good, thanks. Paul, tell me a little bit more about Ford Motor Company’s presence in Louisville, Kentucky. Obviously we know about Ford, but tell me a little bit more about their particular location in Kentucky.
Paul: So John, Ford has a fairly significant presence in Louisville in particular, which is where I’m in, Louisville, Kentucky. There’s two plants here.
One was the Fern Valley Road plant, which is called Louisville Assembly Plant. It has made a variety of passenger vehicles since the 1950s. I think it opened in 1954, 1955, somewhere thereabouts. And then in 1969, ’70, the Kentucky truck plant was built, and that’s actually two-three miles away from where I’m sitting right now.
It has built a variety of trucks from heavy duty, over the road, tractor trailer vehicles to your Ford F-150s, Explorer’s, Ford Escapes, SUVs and those sort of things. It’s a company that’s been around in this area for 60 or 70 years, and it’s employed quite a few people and a lot of contractors and other crafts have gone through both of those facilities a number of times over the years.
John: Okay. How is the Ford Motor Company related to asbestos and mesothelioma cancer cases?
Paul: A couple of different ways. Here in Louisville, those plants, a lot of people have been afflicted with mesothelioma from building the plant. Back in the 1950s when the LAP was built and the late 1960s and early seventies when KTP was built, they were built with asbestos products.
These asbestos products would include thermal insulation and ovens and furnaces that contain fire, brick and refractory material, gaskets, packing, spray on insulation, tile, floor tile and ceiling tile, and a wide variety of construction products that were utilized to build these plants. Outside contractors that came in and built, we started seeing many years down the road that they were getting cancer and specifically they were getting mesothelioma.
We also see companies that were involved in renovation. Those plants, every so often, they would switch out what they’re making there and go from one model car to another model car. They do what’s called a retrofit and as a part of the retrofit, you have to tear everything out and you have to start, not all of it over, but a lot of it you have to start over.
That means tearing out pipe insulation, and pipe insulation historically contain lots of asbestos fibers. There’s always a paint line and the paint lines had ovens and the ovens were lined with asbestos, and frequently they couldn’t use the same oven, or maybe they took advantage of the opportunity to refurbish that particular oven. They have to take all that out.
Millwrights, electricians, pipe fitters, carpenters, folks like that were fairly routinely in that plant or both of those plants every so often to renovate, tear out, install new. We started seeing a lot of those kinds of people who were diagnosed with cancer and a known exposure was at that plant.
Then, there’s a third category of people, the people that actually work there on the assembly line. For many years, brakes on vehicles, whether it was a passenger car, a passenger truck, or a heavy duty truck, they contained asbestos brake linings. We’ve seen a handful of people who worked on the brake linings at both of those plants and they sand and they grind and they just handle these asbestos brake components.
We started seeing a lot of those kinds of people who developed cancer years down the road and they were lifetime Ford employees. I’d say over the years, I’ve probably represented anywhere from 15 to 20 people that, at least for some portion of their life, worked at one of those two plants in some capacity. It’s quite certain that there was an exposure there. It was a frequent exposure and it was a devastating exposure.
John: Who were the people that were typically exposed? You mentioned the people who built the plant, the people who were involved in doing those renovations, and then people who were brake handlers or worked with the brakes. Were there other people who might’ve been exposed as well?
Paul: Yeah, I think anybody that worked in the plant was, from the maintenance people… they have a lot to do. If a pipe burst and there’s not a pipe fitter there, then the maintenance people would take care of that. They have to remove the insulation. Millwrights did a variety of things from working on the conveyor systems. Sometimes they did some of the heavy duty tear out.
Ford frequently contracted with outside millwrights to do that. Sometimes they had in-house millwrights. Electricians, a lot of electricians that worked there and a lot of the electrical parts contain some asbestos parts. Wiring cable, for many years, contained asbestos. So, we’ve seen a lot of the electricians, the carpenters, the pipe fitters, the plumbers, but we’ve also seen a lot of what we call the white collar workers. They had offices there. We’ve seen people that worked in the offices that would walk through the plant and get exposed.
Of course, the superintendents, the people that were supposed to be in the main part of the plant, but they didn’t do the hands-on work, but they’re right there when the other crafts are doing it. We’ve seen people like that get this cancer.
The problem with asbestos exposure is, particularly with mesothelioma, nobody really knows how much it takes to develop the cancer. We know that it’s a dose response system or disease process. The more exposure you get, the more likely that you’re going to get it.
But nobody knows whether it’s a day, a week, a month and reported studies have shown that relatively low dose infrequent exposures have been sufficient to cause this disease. I don’t want to be flippant or cavalier, but a lot of people that just came through the plant for a variety of different reasons that may have had nothing to do with any of these processes we’ve discussed, have developed this terrible cancer. The only exposure that we could ever relate for any of these people was specifically the period of time that they worked at one of these two plants.
John: Okay, so if you were an employee at Ford in Louisville, Kentucky, and you have lung cancer now, or asbestosis or mesothelioma, what should you do?
Paul: Well, we’ve talked about this in a prior podcast. The biggest problem with this cancer, mesothelioma in particular, and even lung cancer to a certain degree, mesothelioma is nearly always fatal. Most people are going to die within six to 18 months of diagnosis and it’s tough.
Certainly, getting one’s medical situation as under control as possible, I think is certainly the first and foremost responsibility and task that they should undertake. But once that occurs, they really should seek representation of counsel. There is a lot of burden that people are going to take on with this cancer and they’re going to have to stop working at some point, they’re going to incur hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars in medical expenses.
Some of that they’re going to be responsible for themselves. Unfortunately, many of our clients and people that are afflicted with this disease will experience indescribable pain and suffering. There are ways to help with all of that. You can’t do it on your own.
I wish that it was true that you could, but to hire counsel who has had experience, not just with asbestos cases, not just with mesothelioma cases, but with these particular locations, I think is key to having a successful outcome. The biggest issue is we’re talking about exposures that occurred in some instances 60 or 70 years ago. In many instances, more like 30 or 40. But who remembers everything that happened 30 and 40 years ago? I mean, hardly anybody does. It takes a little bit of time to reconstruct your work history and to figure out all the possible ways that you were exposed.
Unfortunately, time is of the essence. It’s of the essence for a few different reasons. But one of the biggest ones is if you’re the claimant, if you’re the person that has the cancer, your medical situation may take a downward turn abruptly. To be able to hit the ground running and file your claim and try to identify all the parties that are responsible for causing your cancer is key.
Without the claimant, without the person who’s actually suffered from the disease, it may be very difficult to reconstruct what occurred. So, it’s always important to act quickly. We’re prepared to act quickly because we’ve dealt with both of these plants and we know what to do. Finding somebody that knows what to do and doesn’t have to spend a bunch of time researching and trying to figure it out is going to more than likely increase your chances of a good outcome.
Finding somebody you’re comfortable with and somebody that you feel like is ready to fight for you and battle for you, that’s certainly very important as well. I also recommend that trying to identify anybody and everybody that you work with, there were many people that worked at these plants, still do, and you may not know the things they know. They may not know the things you know.
So, it’s good to put everybody’s collective minds together and try to figure everything out and timelines and products and that sort of thing. The number one mission after you figure out what your medical plan’s going to be is to be proactive. Don’t wait to take action. Don’t wait for things to happen. Make them happen and the best way that you can make them happen is to hire somebody that has experience and knows what they’re doing.
John: Yeah, and speaking of waiting, is there a statute of limitations on filing a claim against Ford Motor Company in Louisville?
Paul: Absolutely, and that’s another reason to move quickly. Kentucky has a fairly harsh statute of limitations. We only have a year from the date that we know we’re injured or should know we’re injured and also know or should know what caused our injury.
But the number one rule of thumb is a year from the date of diagnosis. I don’t like leaving it in the hands of a court or a jury to decide when anybody knew or should have known anything. If somebody’s been diagnosed with mesothelioma, and today’s August 4th, 2023, I would say that that lawsuit better be filed within a year from today, or you’re not going to have an opportunity to recover, and it’s harsh. Courts have no discretion.
If you blow your statute of limitations by one hour, you’re done, and our courts can’t do anything at all to help you even if they want to. That statute of limitations doesn’t just apply to Ford. In many instances, claimants won’t be able to sue Ford if Ford was their direct employer, but we know all the manufacturers, we know the distributors, suppliers, and that statute of limitations applies across the board.
To the extent that a worker’s compensation claim could be filed against Ford, you’d actually have another couple of years beyond that to file that kind of case. But what we’re talking about, what we do and what would really help a victim and his or her family do, is to file a lawsuit against those responsible, and that better be filed within a year or you’re really looking at a difficult time to recover for your injuries.
John: Right, and that would be the case, even though Ford Motor Company is like a nationwide company? I don’t know where their national headquarters is, but you couldn’t get around that by filing a claim against Ford at whatever state that their headquarters is in or something like that?
Paul: More than likely not. Ford’s located in Michigan, and I’ll be honest, I don’t know what Michigan’s statute of limitations is, but most states will take the statute of limitations from the state where the exposure occurred.
Paul: If the exposure occurred in Kentucky, even if a lawsuit was filed in Michigan and a lawsuit could be filed against Ford in Michigan, but the Michigan Court would still take the Kentucky statute of limitations. More than likely, I hate to speak in “exactitude” because you never know, but I would never feel comfortable in assuming that another state will apply their longer statute of limitations when I know what we would do in Kentucky.
In Kentucky, we would take the statute of limitations from the exposure state. Of course, in some instances that’s longer than what we deal with, but don’t think you’re going to get around it by trying to file someplace else. You might get away with it, but more than likely you’re not. If that’s a gamble you take and it doesn’t work out, you’ve cost yourself potentially millions of dollars in recovery.
John: All right, well that’s really great information, Paul. Thanks again for speaking with me today.
Paul: Thanks, John, I appreciate it.
John: For more information about mesothelioma and asbestos exposure, visit the law firm of Satterley and Kelley at satterleylaw.com or call (855) 385-9532.